Wednesday, October 4, 2017

2017 Review: Coaches

With MacKanin's "status change", let's discuss the coaching staff. They have been advised to seek positions elsewhere but I am sure we won't see 100% turnover.

Bench Coach: Larry Bowa is 99.99% out of the dugout but the career Phillie (player, coach, manager), like MacKanin, is going to remain in the organization. He earned it: loyalty during transition years and the transitions seemed pretty seamless from my perspective.

I said that Dusty Walthan would be a good manager but I do value big league coaching experience on a resume before becoming a big league manager to ease his transition and to judge his strategy. He has everything on his resume but he only coached in the bigs during the times the games don't count: Spring Training and Sept. call-up, in which the Phillies were out of contention. Knowing the kids makes him the ideal right-hand man to a new manager, one that will likely come from outside the organization. And yes, it is hard to judge strategy for a bench coach but there will be enough evidence should another change be needed. Unfortunately, this would be Dusty's only opportunity, except if the new manager is on a short (~3 yr) leash.

Pitching Coaches: My guess is that MacKanin wanted to keep McClure, which makes it a factor in Klentak's decision to move Pete out of the dugout. A coach should, in my humble opinion, get 90% out of his players 90% of the time (that's an A/A-). McClure was not successful this year (Vinny: "I'm lost") and we require outside help for the 'pen and especially the starters. The bullpen was up-and-down (Benoit: "we need roles") but given the overall success, especially late, and the short tenure, I think no change is needed in the 'pen.

Corner infield coaches: Samuel is doing well but starting to loose touch. Morandini is also loosing touch (baserunning weak) so a switch (Samuel was a 1B coach) would work. Let's see if they can have better success stealing & scoring with a switch.

Hitting Coach - Matt Stairs: He succeeded and intervened when necessary and exceeded the 90-90 standard I mentioned. Only Maikel Franco didn't take to Stairs and you could argue that Rupp & Joseph took a step back. Also, we have trade bait in the infield now. It would behoove the next manager to keep Matt Stairs given the emergence of the hitters and that Matt just completed his first year as hitting coach.

Other Coaches: Catching, per MacPhail the other day, needs work. Rupp is probably gone but it'll be up to a free agent and the coach to teach Alfaro & Knapp how to frame and call pitches. I'm not sure if the Phillies can split like they did a few years ago with Billmeyer, but if they can, I think the new manager should bring someone in.

Great end-of-year for the Phillies makes for easy decisions by the new manager during a transition year from the basement ('13-'17) to near-.500 in 2018: Walthan for bench coach, keep Stairs, Kranitz ('pen) and the infield coaches (except switch spots), and hire a new catching coach & pitching coach. 2018 performances will tell a lot about the coaches and some more change might be needed as a result. I'll continue with some more offseason stuff as it progresses. Have a great rest of the week!

Saturday, September 30, 2017

My Reaction to Pete MacKanin's Status Change

It is hard to call it a promotion or a demotion. I don't like to call it a firing. He is rewarded for his work by staying with the organization. He wanted to stay on as manager though, and in all fairness, he deserved to stay. What this tells me is the Klentak had likely predetermined Pete's fate. It's likely no one would have taken the job though. I'm sure others will be interested if asked to interview.

Pete's job:

Overall, the record is abysmal (.433 record) but that's primarily due to lack of talent on the roster the last few years. Upon taking the job after Sandberg's resignation, it was clear that Pete was a stellar communicator, which mattered more than wins and losses due to a few beloved yet declining Phillies on the roster. And under MacKanin, the Phillies went .500 since the All-Star Break as the young prospects debuted. He's made mistakes and questionable decisions, but what manager doesn't? I'd give him a B+/A-.

Klentak:

It is very poor timing (and so was the extension but I'd have extended him in Spring anyway). I think any manager that has low talent should be given the opportunity to work with better talent. From what I've seen, Pete seemed capable of winning within two years. Now, it's up to you to prove that he wasn't and to be classy about Pete. So far, you're not too classy. For this incident, you get a D.

Evaluating Klentak's moves:

So far, most of your signings haven't worked out. But the kids got an opportunity and that's all that matters. In fact, the kids are taking advantage! What you said two weeks ago and your plan for the off-season is sound. But will you change your approach to the rebuild? Will you start bringing in better players to fill the gaps (bench, bullpen, a few rotation spots)? The Cubs are a great example: homegrown hitting, outside pitching. That seems to be the need here. Also, I think McClure needs to go but that's a decision made after picking a manager. Good luck in the search, but I'm sure someone will want the job - the wild card is possible next year! Grade: B-

Oh yes, my pick for 2018 manager is AAA Manager Dusty Walthan. He knows the kids well!

Monday, September 25, 2017

2017-2018 Offseason

In this post, I project the Opening Day Roster and some of the names on the pre-Rule-5  40-man roster.

Dropped from 40-Man (initially) - double star is 60-day DL (not on 40-man currently):
  • P Appel (non-tender)
  • P Buchholtz** (F.A.)
  • IF Alvarez
  • IF Blanco (F.A.)- might return
  • OF Kim (F.A./ release) - aqrd in July trade deadline
  • OF Florimon (?)**
  • OF Daniel Nava** (F.A.?)
Current 60-Day DL:
  • P Velasquez
  • P Therrien
  • P Eflin
  • P Eichkoff
Four dropped from 40-man and four need to be added. Not looking good for players in the minors. I'll say that 3-4 more players will be dropped due to a miss on my part or for the sake of adding 2-3 prospects to protect from the 40-man. Aschelman is one I think and Kingery is not since he's got one more season to qualify for the 40-man, I think. He'll be on the 40-man in July. I think Pivetta is on the 40-man but starts in AAA and one of Morgan or Garcia could be the odd men out as good as they've been this year. Bench player Ty Kelly and AAA OF D. Cozens (lack of plate discipline) are also probably out.

Catchers:
  • Possible Free Agent or Cameron Rupp
  • Jorge Alfaro
  • Andrew Knapp
Line-Up (defensive order):
  1. Pitcher
  2. Catcher
  3. 1B Joseph
  4. 2B Hernandez
  5. 3B Crawford
  6. SS Galvis
  7. LF Hoskins
  8. CF Herrera
  9. RF Altherr
Bench:
  • OF Williams
  • IF Franco
Considerations:

The offense is set including Kingery coming up mid-year and shuffling around defensively is easy since most players can play at least 2 positions.

It seems inevitable based on the crowded infield (even in Mar/ Apr), crowded 40-man and pitching needs that Franco, Joseph, Galvis and Hernandez are actively shopped. I'll be bold here and say that two of them are gone. Joseph will probably be shopped the most (Hoskins moves to 1B and allows Williams to be in the OF) followed closely by Franco (last chance) and Galvis (Free Agent). At the very least, I think trading Joseph needs to happen to allow the Hoskins-Williams situation to rectify and add a pitcher.

There is only room for Aschelman and two more prospects. I do not have that list. Once the 40-man roster is emptied, I'll either have a new post or edit this one, plus discuss the OD Roster Projections. I don't think we can add via F.A. or Rule 5 this year, but we don't need to if we can trade.

Over/under (a.k.a. number to beat): 83.0 for 2018... thoughts?

Go Phillies!

Saturday, September 9, 2017

UPDATED: 2nd Half Going Well, Klentak

UPDATE: The 2018 schedule has been released. Because only the Nationals (and six other NL teams) are above .500 this year, most teams have a fairly easy schedule, especially the NL East. During the first 60 games, the Phillies face teams with 2017 records near or above .500 only 17 times and 40 times total during the first 96 games, which takes us to the All-Star Break. What does this mean for the contention timeline? I discuss that below.

The Phillies were able to trade many of their free-agents-to-be, making room for Nick Williams and giving Ben Lively and others a shot. The team has been doing better with the younger guys up here - 4 games under .500 since the All-Star Break. The younger guys, except Franco, have made Phillies baseball a little more exciting. Earlier this week, GM Matt Kentak discussed the off-season plans: pitching-focused.

Analysis:

It is funny (the odd kind) that we acquired more pitchers than hitters over the last few years of trades (although we drafted ok in both departments) and it is our hitting that stands out in the majors right now.

Hoskins is NL Rookie of the Month for Aug.
Herrera hasn't lost a beat in the month he's been DL'd (hamstring), continued his 20-game hitting streak yesterday in the 11-10 loss to the Nats.
Altherr & Williams have been hitting very well too.
Galvis has played every game this season, starting all of them except yesterday. Of course, I'm a stickler for only 5-6 starts per week as opposed to 6-7, unless on a hot streak. He continues to impress with the glove but his inability to hit better is a problem. The front office thinks Crawford is a better overall player despite his struggles transitioning to AAA.
Tommy Joseph has held his own over his short career and a platoon with Hoskins is possible if Joseph is able to be traded.
Hernandez is hitting .289 w/ a .787 OPS.
Knapp has impressed when healthy.
 
In the minors, many players have impressed but one (I cannot remember his name) is susceptible to injuries.
All the pitchers up here have shown flashes of dominance but they are only flashes or at least they only just arrived this year.

Around Spring Training time, I said that we'll be good next year if we have 7 guys that can pitch in the rotation. While we kept that depth in terms of # of names (adding Tom Aschelman - the Intl League All-Star Starting pitcher), the overall quality is looking bleak, so it looks like Klentak is right: focus on pitching. We need two starters and they need to be better than the ones we've been signing - worthy of multi-year deals. A bullpen piece or two wouldn't be remiss. And I will discuss the offense here: trading Franco, Galvis, Hernandez, and/ or Joseph will serve two purposes: acquire pitching and allow at least 1-2 of the kids to roam free. As for Franco, I'm ok if he gets one more year to become the franchise 3B by hitting at least .280-.285 (like he did in 2015). The bench will undergo some changes and acquiring a bench piece or even a catcher can't hurt as long as they're not starting more than 2-3 games per week on average.

Unfortunately, what has happened this year has caused me to think about the rebuild. I analyze that it will be delayed at least a year: contend in 2019 and potential to reach World Series in 2020 as opposed to 2018 & 2019 respectively. However, that's not a bad thing and we should not be unexpected by most; it's also worth noting that the following off-season class is better than this one's. But if everything goes right, Wild Card is possible. What are those ifs? (1) The kids don't loose a beat thru the start of 2018 (easier to do facing weak teams 71.67% of the time), (2) Klentak's signings & trades this off-season work and (3) the depth at AAA continues to come up with some success (even half the success we've had this year would do). Recalling the 3 ifs rule from pre-2014, it's looking bleak. Plus, while that may look like 3 ifs, it represents about 30 players throughout the course of next year. I don't think we'll be able to beat the Nats in the NL East next year even if this scenario plays out and if Klentak's Phillies history is any indication, the second if has about a 30% chance of working out.

And my last thought about Klentak's presser is simple: he didn't address whether he'll sign quality guys and on a 2-3-year deal. I hope so. While we don't need an ace yet, we do need something slightly better that we've had. Jeremy Hellickson was consistent in 2016 and into 2017 and his mentoring of the younger guys was invaluable - Thank you, Jeremy! However, we need someone (actually two starters) in the 3.2-3.6-ERA range and I'm not sure if we can get them on 1-year deals (and we need them for slightly longer than that). And that is slightly more disappointing than the delayed rebuild but we'll have our answer soon enough. I just wanted to know.

Congrats, Rhys on your award and others on your promotions. Go Phils!!!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Trade Deadline Preview

Hello, everyone. Hope all of you are doing well. Been busy here. Still thinking about the Phillies! My thoughts right now: trade players soon, call up some from AAA. So who is going? We have four categories: (1) near-guarantee, (2) actively shopped and likely to go, (3) actively shopped and unlikely to go, (4) not actively shopped but could go.
  1. Pat Neshek, our lone representative to the All-Star Game, is a sure bet to be traded. The 'pen is still rough and will be worst without him but he can fetch us a nice prospect, probably at AA or AAA. His spot won't open up much at the bigs but perhaps create a chain reaction down to Lakewood (low A) - I'm looking at JoJo Romero in Cleawater and M Moniak, S Sanchez, A Medina, and others (esp'ly the rotation - 1.76 ERA!!!) in Lakewood.
  2. After Pat, there really is no guarantee that anyone else will be traded, so I'll stick with bullpen for a moment: J. Benoit. He's probably a category three. Could package him. His departure would be similar to Neshek's.
  3. Let's go to category two now: J Hellickson (doing well overall. Intl Leauge ASG starter Tom Eshelman called up), H Kendrick (doing well when on the roster, so there might be an Aug. waiver deal), T Joseph (doing well and we'll get to see R Hoskins)
  4. And category three: D Nava (D. Cozens called up). You could put Tommy Joseph in this category.
  5. And category four: pretty much every non-pitcher except for Williams, Knapp, Perkins & Kelly. Rupp would not go unless a better veteran is acquired. Franco is unlikely to go since we dont have anyone in the pipeline at AAA. Herrera might not go since we signed him thru his arb years which is a team-friendly deal. He, Rupp and Franco are getting better (luckier) offensively. All three hold their own defensively. Hernandez could be packaged. Galvis could be our future - his glove plays excellently here. Maybe that'll be enough to be a key bench piece - or he could also be packaged. Altherr (currently DL'd) is part of our future. Many others on the 40-man (and some on the 25-man) not really considered part of the core could be packaged, traded in August, or DFA'd (then either released or assigned to AAA). I'm looking at A Blanco & A Morgan, possibly L Garcia & B Stassi.
So who else might we see? Quinn is coming back from another injury but he should be back soon, perhaps Sept. Ben Lively & Zach Eflin could return. Leiter, too. Crawford is doing better but his difficult transitions will likely keep him in AAA until next trade deadline.

Who won't we see: Alfaro is not ready but will likely make the team next Spring primarily because of the option years situation. If he's called up, we risk loosing him if he's sent down. Kingery is doing well but just arrived at AAA and the front office doesn't want to start his option clock yet - and no protection req'd yet.

Oh, and if you're wondering, the contention timeline is slowed a bit at the beginning, IMO, but still expecting success from 2019 on. I do think adding more successful outsiders is necessary. No shame in admitting that you need more outside help as half our core during the '05-'12 ere were non-draftees: 1-2 rule 5s (Victorino, primarliy), 4+ trades (Halladay, Lee, Oswalt, Lidge), & 3-4 FA's. And there are lots of players we can call up during the next few years throughout our system, most of the ones you hear about are from Lakewood and higher. Maybe our bad luck developing prospects will end.

Have a great night and happy tracking the trades.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Aplogies, Roster, Concerns

Apologies for not posting here recently. Spring Training is going very well for the Phillies. Less than two weeks to go and a concern is that stats are down a bit but that is normal. I have faith in the players we've got to win 75-80+ games. What's your prediction? 71 like last year? 78, which is my goal for this team? Or even 83 and makes things interesting in Sept.? Helping the stat problem is that it's affecting primarily the pitchers. Hitters are doing well and we're seeing some break-out performances from many. Yes, that is also normal for the Spring. The best news: NO BIG INJURIES!!! I have an idea to share but first, let's predict the O.D. Roster - it's easy though - just four spots to predict really:

Pitchers (13)

Rotation:
  1. Hellickson
  2. Eickhoff
  3. Buchholz
  4. Velasquez
  5. Nola
  6. Adam Morgan (long-man)
Barring injuries, this will be your rotation. The first week will require only a 4-man, 5-day rotation with the off days. So, Nola (injured last year) is eased back in (three or four starts in April) - thanks, PhilliesNation.com! - and all these guys are capable of sub-4 ERAs w/ 6+ IP/start. Velasquez didn't do that last year on avg. but his new pitch - a curve Hellickson helped him with!!! - should help him achieve better efficiency. Later on in the year, we have we have 5-6 guys at AAA that can come up and our young depth gets better after the trade deadline.

Bullpen:
  1. Adam Morgan (L), long-man/ specialist
  2. Jeanmar Gomez (R), closer
  3. Hector Neris (R), set-up man
  4. Joaquin Benoit (R), late-relief
  5. Pat Neshek (R), mid-late relief
  6. Edubray Ramos (R), mid-late relief
  7. Joely Rodriguez (L), specialist/ mid-late relief
  8. Dalier Hinojosa (R), mid-relief or Pat Venditte (S), primarily a lefty-on-lefty specialist
Gomez, Neris, Benoit, and Neshek are locks. Morgan is not a lock but is close enough given his experience, age & spot on the 40-man. Rodriguez, obtained in a trade with the Pirates a few years ago, made a few appearances for us last year; being a lefty gives him an advantage. Hinojosa & Ramos, part of last year's somewhat-successful 'pen, are probably the last two in. Venditte - a switch pitcher! - is on the bubble.

Hitters (12)

Catcher:
  1. Rupp
  2. Knapp
We don't have the veteran presence from the Chooch years but Rupp has been on the 25-man for the last few years. He hits with a tremendous off-the-bat speed and throws runners out, but has not called most games well, which needs to be corrected this year. Knapp is pretty much on the fast track primarily because of his age, roster status and capabilities as a catcher. I have every confidence in Matt Stairs' ability to help him (and others) with hitting. As long as he holds his own offensively, is eager to listen to coaching staff and excels behind the dish... we'll be good for next year.

O.D. Line-up (defensively 3-9):
  1. Pitcher
  2. Catcher (R)
  3. 1B Tommy Joseph (R)
  4. 2B Cesar Hernandez (S) - utility capable
  5. 3B Maikel Franco (R)
  6. SS Freddy Galvis (S) - utility capable
  7. LF Howie Kendrick (R) - can play 2B, RF and possibly all-around utility
  8. CF Odubel Herrera (L) - can play 2B and some corner OF
  9. RF Michael Saunders (L)
Bench:
  • OF Aaron Altherr (R)
  • 1B, OF Brock Stassi (L)
  • 2B-3B Andres Blanco ()
Pretty balanced if you ask me: righties, lefties, switch-hitters, veterans, and young guys. We need to see half the Phillies' 2017 wins on the backs of Franco and Herrera with strong contributions from Hernandez and I hope (but not critical) Joseph. I have faith in Galvis' ability to hit decently and play solid defense everywhere.

Prediction

This offense, the depth behind them (in the minors), the aforementioned hitting coach Matt Stairs, and the improved pitching depth will keep the Phillies in more games than last year (above .500 through game 60 instead of game 45)\, plus winning a few more games through come-back games (both sides) and shorter loosing streaks late in the year.

Focus
  1. Hitting depth is going to be the primary focus at all levels in 2017. The key guys are:
    • Herrera & Franco in MLB
    • I'd love to see Galvis, Joseph, Knapp, Hernandez, Altherr, Goeddel demonstrate they're part of the future... at least the next 2-3 years.
    • SS JP Crawford, IF Alfaro, OF Cozens, IF Hoskins, IF Valentin, OF Quinn, & OF Williams in AAA
    • IF Kingery at AA.
    • 1B J. Ortiz & OF Moniak in A.
  2. Maintaining our current pitching depth (minus Hellickson & Buchholz) is important for this year heading into 2018. Without free agents, we need ~7 starters ready in S.T. for a call-up pre-deadline. We need about 3-5 more ready for call-ups after the deadline. Seeing progress of the guys in the upper-tier of the minors (particularly the 6 that were up here in S.T.) will be key in 2017. Nola, Eickhoff, and Velasquez' development at the MLB-level is also a high priority.
Concern
 
Seeing the following guys make big steps this year means we have a new core in-progress: starters Nola, Eickhoff & Velasquez; relief P Neris; 3B Franco; and CF Herrera. We do have a fall-back: the upper-tier of the minors, but that is slower and more unknown at this time. Either will open the door to free agency next year. Otherwise, the Phillies will (thru unattractiveness or their own decision(s)) have to buy low in a huge free agent market and will be tough to watch the next year or two.

You ready for this year? They most likely won't contend but will be interesting to watch!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

2016-7 Off-season Update 1

Hello, folks. Been awhile once again. Here's update No. 1 on the Phillies' off-season. Lots to discuss.

First, the Phillies did, in fact, offer starter Jeremy Hellickson the $17.2MM qualifying offer. Surprisingly, he accepted it. I'm glad this move worked out for the Phillies. Obviously there's a risk of injury and/ or regression, but if Jeremy does even 70-80% as well as last year, it'll be a win for the Phillies. If he didn't accept, I would have stood by what I said earlier: we need[ed] to resign him to a 2-3-year deal.

The Phillies were able to shore up their offense by adding Howie Kendrick in a trade with the Dodgers for Darin Ruf & Darnell Sweeney. Ruf, 30, has been shuttled back and forth between Allentown and Philly the last 4 years. He got opportunities, albiet not lengthy ones, but failed to capitalize on the chances he was given. The 25-year-old Sweeney, oddly enough, is back with the Dodgers. Darnell was part of the deal that sent Chase Utley to them and Sweeney got the call as soon as he arrived. Both players spent most/ all of 2016 in AAA. Kendrick played for the Angels and the Dodgers. His playing time cut last year, he became a utility player (2B, OF, 1B?) and suffered a bit - most notable is his BABIP last year was .300: a great number by the usual standard (.275-.305 for most) but down from a career .335-.340 BABIP. He'll play LF this year and possibly some IF when Crawford comes up. CF goes to Hererra and RF is open.

The Phillies also shored up their bullpen but more is needed. They traded money or a player to be named later for Pat Neshek. so he joins Gomez, Neris, Ramos, and others. The core was overused but did well enough that only a few depth moves will suffice. Neshek is a great start. But guess who's available? Good Ole' Kentucky Joe Blanton. Remember him? He reinvented himself as a reliever and middle relief (innings 5-7) is something the Phillies need. I'd say go for it, despite the need to move on from 2008.

And my phinal piece of news - the Pharm system: MLB, as I may have mentioned in an earlier post but no doubt you heard, has ranked our Pharm No. 1 in the majors. Here's one reason why we deserve it - we have 13 top-30 players requiring protection from the Rule 5 draft (Friday deadline):

3. Nick Williams, OF
6. Dylan Cozens, OF
10. Mark Appel, RHP
11. Andrew Knapp, C
15. Ricardo Pinto, RHP
17. Nick Pivetta, RHP
19. Elniery Garcia, LHP
21. Malquin Canelo, SS
22. Carlos Tocci, OF
23. Ben Lively, RHP
26. Jose Pujols, OF
28. Alberto Tirado, RHP
29. Deivi Grullon, C

Thanks to MLB prospects expert J. Mayo for this list. We have about 24 hours to decide who to protect (8-choose-13 - a great problem to have):

  • OF: There is no need for Tocci given his age (21 Y.O.). I think with Williams and Cozens, we're pretty much set, which leaves Pujols out. I don't think Jose will be taken by another team.
  • C: Knapp is a lock and with Ellis worth re-signing and Rupp & Alfaro here, there's really no room for Grullon.
  • IF: Despite Crawford not needing protection, his prominence and proximity to the majors prevents the Phils from protecting Canelo.
  • LHP: Garcia, being the only lefty on this list, is a lock to be protected.
  • RHP: Lively, a starter, is a sure lock and could even make the team out of Spring Training. Appel, also a starter, didn't do so well. Leaving him off will be a low (but non-zero) risk option. Pivetta has done very well and is worth keeping, making it a battle of Pinto vs. Tirado.
The Phillies are headed in the right direction. Lots of decisions to make now. I'll have another update - probably in 2-4 weeks. In the meantime, I'm planning to look at Asche (probably worth outrighting), Franco, Galvis and Hernandez (a trade chip, which I'd approve at this time) in an analysis post.